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Controversial Meridian nightclub illustrates community's growing pains

“With every project, there’s these naysayers that want to see nothing built and they want the city to stop growing," owner Brian Tsai said.
Credit: Brian Myrick / Idaho Press
Traffic drives along Main Street in downtown Meridian in this October file photo.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Over the summer, a Meridian resident presented a black PowerPoint with the words “GUARDING OUR TREASURE” to the Meridian City Council. His goal: “REJECT THE OASIS,” a planned nightclub at 3085 E. Ustick Road.

Many residents came to testify about parking and noise concerns, but others testified about keeping things family friendly, the Idaho Press reports. They also voiced concerns over electronic dance music and the stereotype that drug culture can be associated with that genre of music.

“Many of us who have migrated here in the past few years and continue to do so, especially from the coastal areas, we’re familiar with nightclubs and all the bells and whistles that go with urban life,” the local resident John Buckner said. “The applicant would have us believe that Meridian is deficient without these things.”

Meridian City Council meetings have become the site of heated debates regarding the future of the city and what it has become. For many longtime residents, the area has changed from largely agricultural to a suburb, bringing with it a new way of life. For others, growth provides opportunities for development.

The owner and original applicant, Brian Tsai, said Meridian needs an event space and music venue.

The nightclub’s journey was long and winding. The plan was originally approved by planning and zoning commission however, the club drew heavy opposition and two appeals were filed.

Then, Meridian’s city council rejected the conditional use permit in July. Tsai requested a reconsideration and the council once again denied the permit in September.

Now what was originally planned as a nightclub will be a restaurant, The Dalton Royal, according to Tsai.

Once the facility is built, the property will be 6,500 square feet.

Tsai, who spoke to the Idaho Press last week while working on the restaurant’s website link, said he was still looking for an alternate location for The Oasis and the location he’s currently looking at should be available at the end of 2023.

“I wanted (the restaurant) to be similar, which is somewhere that the entire community, especially the people in that area, could enjoy,” Tsai said.

Tsai’s vision for the restaurant includes food, billiards, music and comedy.

The restaurant doesn’t require a conditional use permit in an area already zoned general-commercial, he said, and therefore only requires an administrative process. In a restaurant, alcohol is a secondary use, unlike a nightclub. Tsai has already received administrative approval, according to the city of Meridian.

“I grew up here,” Tsai said. “I’ve seen most of the restaurants and almost everything new that’s popped up and I haven’t seen yet anything that has anything even remotely close to kind of what I have in mind.”

Construction on The Dalton Royal should start in December, Tsai said. The restaurant should be open by spring 2022.

There’s no more time for an appeal, according to Meridian City Councilmember Brad Hoaglun, who added businesses have to comply with regulations. “We’ll see what happens with The Dalton Royal,” he said.

Meridian has changed immensely since Hoaglun moved to the “rural, agricultural town,” in 1970.

“Whether we want more people or not, the problem is they are coming,” Hoaglun said. “How do we handle that growth? ... The question isn’t how do we keep Meridian small, it’s how do we keep Meridian a wonderful community?”

Records requested by the Idaho Press revealed further pushback towards The Dalton Royal restaurant. Several residents shared information with each other and emailed complaints to the Meridian City Council. Some emails expressed distrust towards Tsai and the project.

Tsai said The Dalton Royal is not intended to be a club and that The Oasis had other planned purposes beyond nightclub operations.

“I remember when people were building the Boise Towne Square and it was the same thing, the same opposition as the naysayers on The Village,” Tsai said. “With every project, there’s these naysayers that want to see nothing built and they want the city to stop growing.”

City staff advised objecting residents about how to seek a City Council review.

“I do not want this on my corner of Meridian,” Jessica Harston wrote to the council, mayor and city clerk. “We have been through this once before. This is not what our community wants or needs.”

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